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Romeo and Juliet: Love and Woe

The Utah Shakespeare Festival announces the cast members for this summer’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Betsy Mugavaro who is making her directorial debut of a mainstage production at the Festival. 

The cast features both returning and brand new actors to the Festival to tell this story of love and woe. Mugavero says “These performers have incredible skill with language combined with access to enormous emotional depth.” She also expressed how excited she is to work with them and see how the actors “develop who these [characters] are and how they tell the story through the prism of their personalities. This combination of talents will leave our audiences breathless and inspired.”

The lead cast is as follows:

Cassandra Bissell

Cassandra Bissell is returning to the Festival, this time in the roles of Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet as well as Hippolyta/Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has appeared with Actors’ Theatre of Louisville in Memory Play, Arizona Theatre Company in Outside Mullingar, Cleveland Play House in Noises Off, and Milwaukee Repertory Theater in My Name is Asher Lev, among many others. She was last seen at the Festival in 2017 as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rosalind in As You Like It, and Rosalind in The Tavern. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. 

Aamar-Malik Culbreth

Aamar-Malik Culbreth is new to the Festival and will be appearing as Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet as well as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Past roles include Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, and Ken in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Tiny in the regional premiere of Kill Move Paradise at Dobama Theatre, and others. 

Ty Fanning

Ty Fanning returns to the Festival, this time as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was last seen at the Festival in 2018 as Charles in Henry VI Part One, Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Solanio in The Merchant of Venice. Among numerous other roles, he has performed as Adam/Drummer in the world premiere of Lindiwe with Steppenwolfe Theatre Company, Guildenstern in Hamlet and The Poet in An Iliad at American Players Theatre, and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. 

Tim Fullerton

Tim Fullerton is returning to the Festival after appearing as Judge in last season’s Sweeney Todd and as Cornwall in King Lear. Audiences can see him this season as Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and Mr. Weston/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical. Productions with other theatre companies include Poirot: Murder on the Links with Oregon Cabaret Theatre, The Book of Will with Texas Shakespeare, Mamma Mia! with Pacific Conservatory Theatre, and was part of the original cast recording of The Three Musketeers with American Musical Theatre. 

Nathan Hosner

Nathan Hosner, new to the Festival, will appear as Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet and Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has a prolific resume including playing Lord Aster in the first national tour of Peter and the Starcatcher, Polixenes in The Winter’s Tale at Goodman Theatre, Captain Ahab in Lookingglass Theatre’s Moby Dick, Albany in King Lear at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Agamemnon in American Players Theatre’s Troilus and Cressida, and Hamlet in Hamlet for Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He has also performed in film and television on Chicago Med, Girls of Summer, Empire, and Chicago P.D. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.  

Alex Keiper

Alex Keiper returns this season as Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Petra Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Festival patrons will remember her as Luciana in The Comedy of Errors and The Smiths in The Comedy of Terrors in 2021. She has also performed as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Mrs. Wormwood in Gretna Theatre’s Matilda!, Lizzie in Lizzie Borden at 11th Hour Theatre Company, and Martha in The Secret Garden for the Arden Theatre Co., among many others. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. 

Naiya McCalla

Naiya McCalla is new to the Festival and will be seen as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream this season. She has performed as Josephine in Pink Morph Suits at The Tank, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar at Actors Company of Natick, Ophelia in Hamlet at the Scranton Shakespeare Festival, and Izzy in Forward Motion at Out Front Theater Company, among many others. She is also a trained ballet dancer and choreographer. 

Ryan Ruckman

Ryan Ruckman is appearing for the first time at the Festival as Mercutio/Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet and Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has also been in productions of Ring ‘Round the Moon as Messerschmann, bobrauschenburgamerica as Curator, and The Human Comedy as Henry, all for Nevada Conservatory Theatre; Macbeth as Banquo/Macduff for Indianapolis Shakespeare Company; and 1984 as Winston for NoExit, among others.

Gilberto Saenz

Gilberto Saenz performed with the Festival Education Virtual Tour of Julius Caesar in 2021 and makes his mainstage debut this season as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and Frank Churchill/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical. He has also performed with AhHa Broadway as Ernst Robel in Spring Awakening, The Tank NYC as Avery the Amazing in Amazing, and Milwaukee Rep as Indio in West Side Story. He has also appeared in the films Voyeur and Untitled Tenderness Project

Additional members of the cast are:

Allie Babich

Allie Babich returns to the Festival after eight years. Audiences may remember her as Ensign Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Ela Delahay in Charley’s Aunt, and Vixen/Ensemble in Dracula. This season she plays Balthasar in Romeo and Juliet and Emma in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical. She has also performed with First Stage, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, American Shakespeare Center, Door Shakespeare, Guthrie Theatre, and an international Disney on Classic: A Magical Night Tour to Japan. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. 

Evelyn Carol Case

Evelyn Carol Case makes her Festival debut as Prince Escalus in Romeo and Juliet and Mrs. Bates/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical. She has appeared with Prague Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Orange County, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Laguna Playhouse, and ten seasons as a resident artist with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. 

Max Gallagher

Max Gallagher is new to the Festival and will be appearing as Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Philostrate/Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other professional roles include Mrs. Bumbrake in Peter and the Starcatcher and Steve in She Kills Monsters at DCTC, 8 in the world premiere of ALiEN8 at Ignition Arts, Mike in Wabi Sabi for Almost Adults.  

Luke Sidney Johnson

Luke Sidney Johnson returns to the Festival as Sampson in Romeo and Juliet. Previously he has played numerous roles here including Baron Elberfeld/Ensemble in The Sound of Music, Ensemble in Sweeney Todd, King of France/Captain/Ensemble in King Lear, and Younger Brother in Ragtime. He has also performed at Pioneer Theatre Company, Playmill Theatre, Simon Fest Theatre Company, and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. 

Zina Johnstun

Zina Johnstun comes to the Festival for the first time as Ensemble in Romeo and Juliet and Musician Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They have performed in productions of White Liars & Black Comedy, Henry V, and Mother Courage and Her Children at Southern Utah University, and appear courtesy of the SUU Fellowship Program.

Kat Lee

Kat Lee returns to the Festival, coming directly from this year’s Every Brilliant Thing touring production. This season she will play Lady Montague/Paris page in Romeo and Juliet and Mrs. Weston/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical. Additional roles with the Festival include two seasons as a Featured Performer in the The Greenshow, Harlem Woman in Ragtime, and Angel-ett/Ensemble in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, among others. She has also performed at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Short North Stage, and Lyric Repertory Theatre.

Jarod D. Lewis

Jarod D. Lewis appears for the first time at the Festival as Gregory in Romeo and Juliet. Previous roles include Malcolm in Macbeth, Ferdinand in The Tempest, and Ensemble in Mother Courage and Her Children, all with Southern Utah University’s Theatre and Dance Department. He is appearing courtesy of the SUU Fellowship Program. 

Avery Peterson

Avery Peterson is new to Festival audiences and appears courtesy of the Southern Utah University Fellowship Program, and will be seen as Ensemble in Romeo and Juliet. She has appeared as Sister Mary Hubert in Nunsense, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and Gertrude McFuzz in Suessical

Paul Michael Sandberg

Paul Michael Sandberg will perform this season as Montague/Friar John/Capulet Cousin in Romeo and Juliet, returning after five years. His previous roles at the Festival were Julius Caesar in Julius Caesar, Roy in The Odd Couple, Captain Smollett in Treasure Island, and Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, among others. He has also performed at the Court Theatre in Chicago, Steppenwolf Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, and the Illinois Shakespeare Theatre. 

Marco Vega

Marco Vega returns to the Festival, this time as Paris in Romeo and Juliet and Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Festival audiences may remember him from numerous productions during the 2014-2017 and 2021 seasons, including The Comedy of Errors as Antipholous of Ephesus, Pericles as Leonine, A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Demetrius, and Much Ado About Nothing as Hugh Oatcake. He has also performed at Texas Shakespeare Festival, The Old Globe, and The Reduced Shakespeare Company.

Braedon Young

Braedon Young is returning to the Festival as Abram in Romeo and Juliet and Starveling in A Midsummer Night Dream. He was seen in last season’s All’s Well That Ends Well and King Lear. At the Manhattan School of Music, he has performed in She Loves Me as Georg Novak, Don’t Stop Me as Roger Dickson, and The Drowsy Chaperone as Gangster 2. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall.

The 2023 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 21 to October 7 and includes Romeo and JulietA Midsummer Night’s DreamJane Austen’s Emma The MusicalA Raisin in the SunThe Play That Goes WrongTimon of Athens, and Coriolanus, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and backstage tours. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visiting bard.org.

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